The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today proposed new rules to combat so-called “robotext” campaigns – barrages of fraudulent texts sent by malicious actors and major criminal organizations. In a press release, the agency said it would solicit ideas for applying caller ID technologies to text messaging and explore requiring cellphone providers to block illegal texts before they don’t reach consumers.
“The American people are fed up with fraudulent texts, and we must use every tool at our disposal to address it,” FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. “Recently, fraudulent text messaging has become a growing threat to consumers’ wallets and privacy. More can be done to address this growing problem and today we are officially launching an effort to take a serious, comprehensive, and fresh look at on our policies against unwanted robotex.
In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued this morning, the FCC suggests requiring wireless carriers to block text that claims to be from invalid, unassigned, or unused numbers and numbers on non-origin lists ( DNO) at the network level. The advisory also recommends increased efforts to educate consumers, such as steps to opt out of policies that allow companies to sell or share personal numbers.
Most FCC rules, including this one, are adopted through a process known as “notice and comment” rulemaking. The FCC notifies the public that it is considering making or changing rules on a particular topic – a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – and invites public comment, based on comments received during the development of the final rules.
FCC Acting Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel first proposed new rules requiring cellphone carriers to block illegal text messages last October. But the rules remained pending before the full committee — the other four members of the FCC — until this week, as they moved to the next stage of the notice-and-comment process.
Robotexts, which encompass scam texts on unpaid invoices, package delivery snafus and other such deceptive scenarios, have increased in recent years. SMS and spam call blocking app RoboKiller estimated that consumers received more than 12 billion robotexts in June, and complaints to the FCC about spam text messages fell from 14,000 in 2020 to 15,300 l ‘last year.
The top scam texts in 2021 involved fake delivery messages claiming to represent Amazon, the US Postal Service and other organizations, according to a report from the nonprofit US PIRG’s Consumer Watchdog office. Others included fake messages from banks and texts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.